How do we tackle Tyre Particulate Pollution?

Surprise, surprise! After encouraging people all across the UK to abandon their petrol and diesel cars in favour of their electric counterparts, the government’s top ‘clean air’ advisor has claimed that a tyre tax will need to be imposed on electric cars to combat poor air quality in cities.

This comes as the London Mayor and Chief Muppet, Sadiq Khan, declares a ‘war on pollution’, with plans to expand the controversial ‘Ultra-Low Emissions Zone’ to cover nearly all of greater London.

Similar schemes have already been implemented in cities all across the UK, such as Bristol and Liverpool. And opinions are somewhat divided (to say the very least) between whether such ‘green initiatives’ do the slightest bit of good, or whether they are another thinly veiled excuse to squeeze yet more money out of the public in the name of ‘protecting the environment’.
The problem is, haven’t we been here before? Not so long ago, people were encouraged to buy diesel due to them delivering more power then the petrol equivalent at lower engine revs, and therefore being better for the environment. So, many people unsurprisingly invested in diesel vehicles, after being convinced that they were making an environmentally conscious decision. And now they’re being taxed for it!

How big of a problem are tyre particulates?

Now, it seems the same is happening with electric cars. Suddenly, we’re seeing headline after headline claiming that EVs actually create more pollution than the cars we’re being encouraged to replace! A recent press release claims that, due to the additional weight of the battery pack and superior torque, the tyres on EVs wear faster, which produces higher levels of nanoparticle matter pollution, also known as particulates.

The press release by Emissions Analytics, which has been widely circulated in the media, suggests that, ‘particulate matter pollution from car tyre wear can be 1,000 times higher than car exhaust emissions, and that car tyres may produce as much as 9.28 grams of particulate matter per mile, or 5.8 grams per kilometre.’
However, what isn’t made clear in the press release is that these numbers are wildly misleading because they’re based on an extreme worst-case scenario. For example, if we were to apply these numbers to a typical family car, and the tyres were indeed shedding particulate matter at the rate suggested per mile, there’d be nothing left of them in less than 4000 miles! It’s clear therefore, that such claims are greatly exaggerated.

And studies do show that air quality is already demonstrably better in cities such as Dundee that have a high volume of electric vehicles. So, is there a way of encouraging people to switch to electric vehicles without using pollution as an excuse to tax the hell out of them for it?

Finding a simple solution

Well, as batteries evolve to become lighter and more powerful, so does tyre technology, so it won’t be long before the weight difference between EVs and petrol/diesel vehicles becomes almost negligible. But evolution takes time.

So, in the meantime, we need to take cheap tyres out of the equation.

Low quality tyres tend to have a higher toxic chemical content, and their wear rate compared to high quality tyres differs substantially, which equals higher levels of particulate pollution.
So, the answer doesn’t lie in financially penalising people for making ethical choices, nor should people be discouraged from using their cars or investing in electric vehicles. By introducing a regulatory body that eliminates the lowest class of production and creates a basic environmental standard that all tyre manufacturers are required to meet, cheap tyres that produce the most micro plastic pollution would no longer be a dominant force in the marketplace.

Even if the number of low quality tyres in the UK marketplace were reduced by just half, this would make a huge difference in terms of environmental impact, at no extra cost to the taxpayer. And as new tyres are developed, and technology continues to evolve, particulate pollution can be reduced even further, and we take another step toward a cleaner, more sustainable future.